ANALYSIS: DC Entertainment Strengthening the ‘DC’ Brand

So what's going on at DC Comics/Entertainment/Digital?  From the outside, it looks like they their decisions, most notably the shuttering of WildStorm and Zuda, relate to strengthening 'DC' as a brand.  WildStorm licensed books and Zuda's digital offerings being brought under the DC logo signals the end of an era, and a more cohesive publishing plan from DC.

It is a similar position that Marvel has taken over the past few years with their publishing; be it Marvel Knights, Marvel Adventures, or Marvel MAX.  With the exception of Icon, which exists on its own as purely distribution for exclusive creator-owned books not tied to the Marvel Universe, Marvel makes sure its name is front and center when branded across all media.  With the WildStorm and Zuda moving under DC and its Digital Team, the home of Superman and Batman is looking to similarly cement their name in the minds of the public.

Unless they were reading comics at the height of the speculative market in the 1990s, the name WildStorm probably isn't going to mean much to people outside of comics.  And frankly, after the last few years of middling output, it doesn't mean much to people that have been reading comics every Wednesday for years.  The brand has been in sad decline in the past 10 years, where once they were a hotbed for top creators (Warren Ellis, Ed Brubaker, Mark Millar, Joe Casey, John Cassaday, Bryan Hitch, Frank Quitely, Sean Phillips, Dustin Nguyen, etc) with fresh, edgy comics on the stands (The Authority, Planetary, Sleeper, Wildcats 3.0, the America's Best Comics line, etc), the line has become part licensed books, part random offerings, and the other part a seemingly unending, impenetrable crossover. 

With the news that DC Entertainment is going to fold WildStorm under the DC Comics brand, that a once controversial, ultra violent book like The Authority might come out under the same brand alongside new issues of Adventure Comics seems questionable.  Then again, Marvel manages to put out Punisher Max right next to Amazing Spider-Man, so there is clearly a way to publish the ultra violent and sexualized under the same roof as all-ages material.


It was curious in the last week or so to see new titles popping up on the DC Comics iPad/iPhone app with a "Conversion by WildStorm" tag on the first page of each issue.  Hearing now from Jim Lee and Dan DiDIo that "the WildStorm editorial team will undergo a restructuring and be folded into the overall DC Comics Digital team," makes sense, although I wonder how long the WildStorm name will continue to show up on the digital comics.

Taking a look at the posters and billboards for RED, the first(?) film adaptation of a WildStorm property, you notice there is no mention of WildStorm, which isn't totally incredible, since I don't recall seeing a Dark Horse logo on the Hellboy films. Yet the DC logo gets prominent placement in the billing block, despite WIldStorm being the actual line of the comic, or "graphic novel" upon which the film is based. (Films like The Losers based on a Vertigo property have prominent "Vertigo" logos displayed.)

 

Vertigo's future as a brand is still a question mark.  The imprint started before it really even had a name, and there was a time in their history when the logo featured both DC and Vertigo's names, before dropping the 'DC' in the early part of last decade.  Could we see the return of a DC logo to Vertigo's offerings?  With an increased crossover between the two imprints on the way (most notably, Sandman's Death appearing in Action Comics next month), it's certainly not impossible, and there is precedence.  Conversely, one could also argue that Vertigo has strengthened its own brand in the past decade, having been the home for Sandman, Y: The Last Man, Fables, Hellblazer, Scalped, The Unwritten, and countless others.  Its own sub-imprint, Vertigo Crime, launched in the past year with guns blazing.   

With more than three months until WIldStorm actually ceases publishing, it is going to be difficult to say how exactly the transition is going to be handled right now.  Will books like The Authority or Wildcats be blended into the DC Universe proper, or will they stay on their own world of the multiverse?  I have a hard time picturing a Midnighter/Batman crossover, but that's just me. 

For now, a fond farewell to WildStorm, who brought great creativity and diversity to the comic book racks.  And if you haven't already, be sure to check out the iFanboy Video show on WildStorm, past and present.

Comments

  1. It’s like the "Under Consideration" blog has mated with "iFanboy.com"

    I love it!

  2. It is unfortunately that some people are going to be hurt by this in the short run, but this seems like a relatively solid move (for the company) in the long run.  Cost minimization = profit maximization (for good or bad).

    I’d read a Midnighter/Batman crossover. 

  3. Nice article. I’m one of those who hasn’t picked up a Wildstorm Universe book in a number of years, but it’s sad to see another liine of books essentially bite the dust.

    While the powers that be may still be keeping an eye on it, I think Vertigo is pretty safe for the time being. With its current titles being some of the most lauded in the industry, as well as its back catalogue of classics, DC would pretty much be shooting themselves in the foot by ending it. Plus, consider the il-will it would create among creators if it were to be shuttered.

  4. While it’s sad to see this happen to Wildstorm, Jim Lee WS’s founder is co-publisher. What worries me is what will happen to those properties. While I don’t read those titles, I know people do and I would like to see them continue in some form or another, but what I don’t want is those characters folded into the DC proper. That was what worried me about what they wanted to do with the Archie superheroes, but it looks like that fizzled. 

  5. If Vertigo’s books were to go away I would cry. Hopefully they are safe even if the Vertigo imprint goes away.

  6. I really am sad because I was looking to Wildstorm to give me some fun new superhero books. I have been loving DV8 by Brian Wood, and was hoping he’d follow the miniseries with another. I guess all bets are off? I understand what they are doing, and as long as DC/Vertigo stay afloat I’ll be happy.

  7. Vertigo will not go away for a long time so long as we keep getting quality books such as Fables, American Vampire, and The Unwritten.  And I think DC realizes the value of having at least one creator-owned imprint in their organization.  There’s always a chance another breakout hit from there will make waves like Sandman and Y: The Last Man did before.

  8. Shit, I was just getting into Planetary and thinking about ordering some of The Authority on Ebay too!!  And what is to come of Astro City?!  That is like one of my all time fav titles in all the comic book world!!

  9. I think that the characters that are absorbed into the DC Universe will serve as cannon fodder for the next "event" or "crisis." 

  10. I guarantee you in less then 3 months; no one will care about this Wildstorm stuff.

    It will be meshed into the DCU; the trades of the popular series will get reprinted; and everyone will be happy. 

  11. Considering I only read 9 monthly titles and 4 of them are from Vertigo I am pretty nervous.  I don’t think the company is going to get the axe but I bet more titles are.  Given the dearth of new announcements at Comic Con I can also guess they are going to be much more cautious in launching new books.  Anyone have anything to support this assessment or shall I file it under wild speculation? (In case you are wondering the titles I am specifically concerned about are Fables, Scalped, Sweet Tooth and Unwritten.)  

  12. Blend it in!! Just like the fantastic milestone universe should be. Make the dc universe bigger, stronger, ethnically diverse.